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I stumbled upon an interesting data point
The first time I found that British Airways shows Japan Airlines award inventory before JAL shows it on its own website was last December when I was booking return flights from Southeast Asia. I found that the typical pattern of JAL award inventory was consistent ( I’ll describe in more detail below ), but when the JAL website should start showing if a seat was available, the site wasn’t refreshing it’s inventory. Instead, I found that there was some sort of lag between what the JAL award search engine would show as availability, and the award releasing algorithm that actually releases the seat. In order to see what the inventory looks like during this lag, you can use British Airways search engine to find availability. Lemme show you.
Japan Airlines updates their award inventory at specific times. For this search we’re looking for Sept 9th in 1st class. I checked on Aug 25th in LA around 6pm for flights on September 9th.
You can see when the inventory was released. Middle of the night, Japan Time.
A quick refresher – Basically JAL releases space in the following ways:
- Random award avail outside of 14 days prior to departure
- At 14 days, if 2+ seats are for sale, either one seat will become available or multiple seats for award booking .
- If only 1 or 2 seats are currently occupied in your desired cabin, likelihood is 2 seats will be released.
- They will release seats until just 1 is left in the cabin
- If you book one award seat and 2+ still remain, within a day or two another seat will typically be released
- If only 1 seat remains it will normally be blocked( for an elite, etc) and JAL stops showing award inventory 5 days before departure. There are some work-a-rounds, but for all intents and purposes this is the pattern.
If you keep a close eye on the roll out of awards you’ll see the pattern on JAL’s own website.
You’ll notice that September 9th has a grey diamond whereas Sept 8th has a blue diamond. The day before this search, September 8th had a seat available, and apparently someone took it or someone booked a revenue ticket and it pulled the award inventory back – either way there isn’t a seat to book. The blue diamond indicates that there are seats available, and JAL is actively determining whether they will release one of those seats or not to award inventory.
The grey diamond indicates that there aren’t any seats available for award booking. However, there’s a difference between the grey diamond being within the 14 day timeframe and outside it. If it’s outside the window they aren’t working on releasing the inventory, and there could be seats released within the 14 day window. If the grey diamond is within the 14 day window there aren’t any seats avail, and basically you’re SOL.
However, we are within the 14 day timeframe, so it should indicate whether they are working on a seat, or if one is available. There should be a blue diamond at the very least.
It is possible that it that the grey diamond is indicating that no seats are available. I checked the seat map and found that there are 3 open seats in First. This means that the table should indicate open seats with a blue diamond.
However, when you go to the BA website and search the availability at the same time. It shows a seat available.
This same exact thing happened to me in December when I was aggressively tracking award avail on JAL. BA showed the seat as released, JAL did not. Both times when I called in to AA to book, I was able to snag the seat. The BA site wasn’t showing phantom inventory, but rather was picking up information during the lag of JAL’s own internal systems.
This bit of info helped me land another 2 seats in JAL first class. BYAH!